– Data Center Post spoke with Simon O’Sullivan, vice president at Maxava (http://www.maxava.com/), a worldwide provider of innovative high availability and disaster recovery software solutions for IBM i systems. Customers have been using Maxava HA software for more than a decade to ensure business continuity, reduce risk and meet regulatory requirements. Maxava’s software ensures business resilience for a cross section of the world’s most demanding IBM i customers through SaaS, cloud, subscription and traditional licensed software models. Maxava has staff and customers located worldwide.

Why are Maxava’s HA and DR solutions useful in today’s enterprise data centers?
The data center model is constantly evolving. A few years ago it was good enough to take daily tape backups of your critical information and send them into offsite storage. Often the off-site storage was at a data center and the service included a “cold backup.” This meant that in the event of a disaster on your primary server – the data center would provide a backup server and restore your latest tape saves – and effectively rebuild your environment from scratch.

The obvious problem with this model was twofold – first, it often took several days to get the customer’s environment re-built on the cold backup server. And second, what about the data that was updated in the time between the last backup and the disaster? – That data was effectively lost and would need to be re-keyed manually, adding to the total outage that the users would suffer. In addition to this, the amount of data that the average company retained was growing out of hand to even the smallest organization. Businesses could no longer endure an outage of multiple days – especially an Internet-driven business where customers would just “click” away to a different supplier if a site wasn’t available. This still is a critical problem for many businesses.

To counter this problem, many companies with critical data requirements – such as banks, finance companies, healthcare, and manufacturing – turned to the “do it yourself” (DIY) model. In this model, they purchased a second server and data replication software to implement a “hot backup” solution. In case of a disaster, they could “swap” from one server to the other without data loss or any significant downtime. Sometimes, this second server would be placed in a data center which adding an extra level of security to their disaster recovery planning. The data center delivered earthquake, fire, hurricane and tornado protection along with UPS and generator power to counter any power loss problems.

Now DR in the cloud is another option. Sometimes the customer does not want to purchase a duplicate server, purchase the replication software, implement the project and then train their staff to monitor and manage the replicating environment on a daily basis. They would prefer the data centre to provide all this as a service. Data replication technologies have improved enormously over the past few years to allow easy implementation and advanced monitoring and management, so for most data centers this is not a problem.

Disaster recovery (DR) in the cloud is the latest model to evolve in today’s enterprise data centers. The customer can now replicate their data directly into the data center where it is stored on a hot backup (often a virtualized server to cut costs). One server may act as a backup for many companies while all their various databases are held in secure discrete partitions on a single machine. The replication environment is often monitored and managed by the data center staff and the customer just pays a monthly fee. The customer is basically renting the replication software and the data center is providing the hot backup service, the backup server and the data center services in one easy package. This can be quite cost-effective when the data center is providing the service to many customers. Regular testing is provided with the service, and, in the event of a disaster, the customer can often re-locate and run their business from the data center workspace.

Maxava is an IBM i data replication engine which will replicate data updates as they happen in real-time to a backup server across any distance.

How can data center/IT managers benefit from this solution?
Data center managers must evolve to meet the new model of DR in the cloud. The data center can become the full DR solution provider once they partner with a provider of data replication technology for the various servers they support. They can go from providing a cold backup to providing a full hot backup and associated services.

What advice would you give to data center/IT managers about your solution/technology that would help them make a purchase decision for this type of solution?

The IT manager can take advantage of DR in the cloud easily by paying a monthly fee for a full service. They no longer need to purchase a new machine and replication software or train their staff. They can have a hot backup available and can avoid downtime and data loss. The data center manager can change from being a cold backup solution provider to that of a hot backup solution provider.

If you think your organization will never need DR technology, you’re wrong. My office is about 300 miles away from Christchurch in New Zealand which was hit by a devastating earthquake weeks before the huge earthquake and tsunami struck Northern Japan, not to mention the crisis over the crippled nuclear reactors there.

We have about six customers in the Christchurch downtown business center which was cordoned-off immediately after the earthquake. Many businesses had to evacuate and leave behind their servers and backup tapes, and many of these businesses were offline a week after the earthquake. IT staff were unable to retrieve their computer records and data.

There was a TV news segment that showed a man walking down a debris filled street carrying a computer server under each arm. This isn’t a DR plan. The truth is many businesses will fail in the coming months because they did not prepare for a disaster like this. Without adequate backup, these businesses have lost access to their servers and their data. Even if IT staff can find their records and computers in the debris, it’s impossible to tell if they can recover any hardware or data of value. Without an effective disaster recovery plan and the technology enabled to execute on the plan, business data centers affected by the earthquake – or any other natural disaster — are crippled until they can get to their data and rebuild.